I am writing in response to a series of letters published in the Jan. 17 edition of The Independent Weekly regarding the director of the University Art Museum, Mark Tullos. Although I cannot speak to the specific grievances that were aired, I can say that my own experience with Mr. Tullos has found him to be a consummate professional and a natural leader.

What has impressed me most about him is his vision for UAM as both a cultural beacon and a community resource. I have had the pleasure of partnering with him on a series of projects that have offered innovative educational programming to local children in the context of the museum. Two years ago, AmeriCorps and UAM piloted the ArtSmart program. ArtSmart brought children from public housing to the museum to view the Deborah Butterfield exhibit. Before, during, and after their visit, these students completed a battery of art-based literacy activities based on the Butterfield horse sculptures. At the close of the pilot, the work of these students, including their own Butterfield-inspired horse sculptures, were exhibited at the Hays Town building adjacent to UAM. The success of the ArtSmart pilot spawned a broader Writing in the Galleries project now in its second year. Just recently, AmeriCorps and UAM received a two-year ULS grant to offer free participation and transportation to Writing in the Galleries for schools in Lafayette and Vermilion parishes impacted by Hurricane Rita. None of this would have been possible without the support, direction and leadership of Mark Tullos.

It has been said that character is defined by what you do when no one is watching. I think it is important for people to know about some of the great work taking place at UAM behind the scenes and away from the spotlight. I would like to thank Mark for his service and wish him continued success in creating a University Art Museum that we can all be proud of.

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